What is the significance of the following quotation from Chapter 3 of Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front: "Give 'em all the same grub and all the same pay/And the war would be over and done in a day"?
In Chapter 3 of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front, a common soldier nick-named “Kat” – a favorite of the other men because he finds food and shares it with them – expresses his views about the war:
Katczinsky won't budge from the opinion, which as an old front-hog, he rhymes:
Give 'em all the same grub and all the same pay And the war would be over and done in a day.
Katczinsky’s opinion is that the continuation of the war is due largely to economic factors. In particular, he feels that if officers were paid as little as enlisted men are paid, and if officers had to eat the kind of food eaten by enlisted men, the officer class would have little reason to want to start wars or continue wars. Much of Chapter 3 of the novel implicitly satirizes the foolishness, pretensions, and lust for power of certain officers, and much of that chapter also mocks the idiocy of military formalities that have little to do with fighting wars and much to do with sustaining and displaying the power of officers.
By implication, Katczinsky’s opinion may also be that wars serve the interests of those with plenty of money, even though wars are fought by men who are paid little and who are very badly fed. Remarque's novel is one of the great indictments of World War I from the perspective of common soldiers. Katczinsky’s opinion, then, is in many ways emblematic of the meaning of the novel as a whole. Instead of glorifying warfare and presenting officers as heroic figures, the novel instead presents a grimly realistic portrayal of war and presents many officers as figures who are far from inspiring and who are in fact often contemptible.